Written by Joya Corr.
Art by Altin Ferreira.
It was early December of 2018 when an impulsive decision to cut my hair led me to the salon. At the time, I described the feeling as just needing a change, but looking back it was more so needing something specific to change. Little did I know, it was the spark to the beginning of my social transition.
I was living in Washington, DC, working a part-time job at a hair salon (ironically) while living and identifying as a gay man. It was like any other time in my life – I was going from point A to point B, overworking myself, and performing masculinity. I was starting to feel spiritually called to Los Angeles around the same time I was spontaneously called to chop all of my hair off. A few months after the haircut, I packed up and drove my car to LA where, without knowing at the time, I would embark on my medical transition.
There was an immediate discomfort when I looked in the mirror once the haircut was finished. I thought the anxiety was coming from a combination of shock and the need to settle into my new look. As days, weeks, months, and a year passed, I would learn it was a discomfort that was far more than just the result of a haircut. Getting dressed and ready for the day became such a daunting task. Nothing in my wardrobe brought me satisfaction let alone joy or confidence. It took me three times longer than usual to choose an outfit and it often came from altering my pieces or borrowing something from my partner. I started feeling jealousy toward the femmes around me as I watched them do their makeup and try on all these pieces of clothing that I secretly craved. As clear as it is for me now, I couldn’t understand where this was all coming from. I had no language for all I was feeling. All I knew was from the moment I cut my hair, I felt an immediate itch coming from the inside of my skin. My hair was my safety blanket, a piece of my natural expression that brought femininity without having to try. Once it was gone I felt an instant need to find out what my hair took with it.
I started feeling jealousy toward the femmes around me as I watched them do their makeup and try on all these pieces of clothing that I secretly craved.
In the months leading up to my move, I discovered the possibility that I could identify in other ways than I was told my entire life. My partner Skye could feel the discomfort in my energy and asked me randomly one day if I had ever considered that I might not be a gay man. It was like a light bulb went off in my head and we jumped right into a conversation about non-conforming identities or not having to identify at all. She mentioned they/them pronouns and something just clicked. It was such an intense moment of self-actualization because even without the language or full understanding, it felt right. Skye also told me I could always change my name if I felt like John wasn’t warm and fitting anymore. She asked me if I liked Joya (a new nickname that a friend gave me) and if I wanted to try using it with friends to see how it felt. A few minutes following the moment of revelation regarding my pronouns, there was another moment of self-actualization—knowing my name was now Joya.
It took me a few months to socially transition from John to Joya and demand ‘they/them’ pronouns. I experienced such anxiety about telling certain coworkers, distant friends, family, and peers about my name and pronoun change. By the time I moved to LA, in March of 2019, I was confidentially identifying as non-binary, using they/them pronouns, and living as Joya full-time. I felt an intrinsic desire to lean into my femininity the more I experienced it.
The discomfort in my body and search for relief continued while I was living in LA. The style and fit of my jeans weren’t hugging me the way I wanted them to, my shirts were all too big, and I began craving full-set manicures and white toenails. I felt an intrinsic desire to lean into my femininity the more I experienced it. I had a full beard until one day in July of 2019 when, similarly to my haircut, I had an impulsive desire to shave my face. A few of my friends told me I should grow it back out, but another moment of self-actualization came that outweighed anyone’s opinion—the smooth skin felt right. For months I searched, dug deeper, and challenged myself to find more of what was missing. Then I became close friends with a trans woman who would become more of a sister and fairy godmother. She let me borrow her clothes, showed me little makeup tricks, and introduced me to the world of possibility. I felt so much closer to myself whenever I was around her. I was able to relate in a way that eventually led me to start Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). I began my medical transition in May of 2019.
My hair was my safety blanket, a piece of my natural expression that brought femininity without having to try. Once it was gone I felt an instant need to find out what my hair took with it.
I still haven’t landed on exactly what brought me to the hair salon that day; all I know is that haircut released me. I’m not even sure that there was anything other than my subconscious need to break free from myself. I was in desperate need to discover my authentic self. Without the discomfort and vulnerability that that haircut brought, I don’t know I would have discovered such revelations regarding my existence in this world. It took an intense spiritual shedding of my hair to discover the parts of myself I so deeply longed for. For years I thought my hair defined who I was. It was ultimately the release of my hair that would reveal the authenticity of how I defined myself – a non-binary, trans femme identifying writer, model, and activist.
(Me today – one year and three months on HRT)
About the Author
Their writer’s name is Joya and they are a non-binary, trans femme writer, model, and activist. They were born and raised in Brockton, MA but have lived in four different cities since graduating college in 2016. Joya received a bachelor’s of arts in Psychology and has worked social work jobs ranging from case management to residential counseling. They’ve recently stepped away from having an employer in order to focus on freelance writing and getting signed to a modeling agency; while doing more mutual aid, organizing, and protesting on the ground for Black trans lives. They have dreams of modeling internationally, writing a memoir, and of opening/operating a trans and queer youth center. One day Joya wants to be a mother figure of their own and have a house for LGBTQ+ youth that need a home. In the meantime they are healing from childhood trauma and fighting for Black trans liberation; while finding joy through community, art, and love.